Agouti: It’s not a Cheese

One of the things that makes many breeds so beautiful is a “stand off coat,” or double-coat with agouti coloration. Agouti: It’s not an exotic cheese, it’s a term that refers to alternating bands of light and dark color along each hair in a dog’s coat – and it’s stunning.

Agouti is actually a “signaling protein” gene. It has a major effect on the amount of melanin injected into the growing hair and causes a banding effect on the hair while also controlling the distribution of black pigment that can be uniformly distributed, or distributed to “points” of the body. In a Keeshond, for example, each hair of the outer coat is partially black, and depending upon the length and depth of each hair, a Keeshond can be lighter or darker (either is correct).  The agouti gene is also associated with sable (or the “wild type” allele) and tan points in a breed, and for determining a solid color, or a non-agouti. 

Different breeds might use different terms for the same thing. In Dachshunds, this coat pattern can be called, “wildboar,” which describes most standard wire haired Dachshunds.  It’s also called ‘Badger’ (since it resembles the bands of hair on a Badger) which is found on some Great Pyrenees. 

There are tests that can help breeders identify agouti alleles present in their dogs which in turn, help determine possible coat color outcomes from specific matings (the University of California at Davis offers such a test).

An informative website that goes into the agouti can be found here, and those interested in more in-depth discussion should look for virtually anything written by Sheila Schmutz. 

Siberian Husky by Carol Cavalaris. Find and support her work here which is also where you can purchase this print.

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